Monday, September 15, 2014

Writers Write And Amazon Become Illiterate

Writers who write for a living tend to write quite well. Their prose is clear and concise. Those writing literary fiction pen prose that is maybe not so clear but it sounds nice. At any rate, those who use words to earn their keep are rather good at it.

Is this the face of literary suffocation?
Writers who are published by Hachette Book Group are feeling the pain of the ongoing dispute between Amazon and their publisher. Amazon wants to control the book selling world, and Hachette wants to stay in business while paying their authors the royalties promised. If Amazon can bring Hachette to its knees and extract the sort of financial concessions it wants, then Hachette won't be paying its authors as much because the cuts have to come from somewhere, don't they?

Amazon is making it difficult to buy Hachette books, which means Hachette's authors can't sell as many books and that means they can't earn as much as they did when Amazon and Hachette were getting on in an amicable way.

So what did they do, these injured authors? They wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos who runs Amazon and then they published their letter in the New York Times for all the world to see.

A lot of the world did indeed see it because these are authors with loyal readers who will read their favorite author's words wherever they appear.

Amazon responded in kind by appealing to its users of the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, but the marketing department at Amazon isn't made up of best-selling authors like Stephen King or Douglas Preston. The letter garnered more laughter than serious consideration, and it was largely ignored.

As for that letter the authors sent to Amazon? Nothing changed, so we can only conclude that Amazon developed an acute case of illiteracy.

Writers write, and so the writers have penned another letter, this one to the members of Amazon's board. They heap guilt onto the heads of the liberal-leaning directors who are more likely to feel the sting of shaming than some conservative corporate honcho who has thick skin and a heart of stone.

Do you want to be a part of book banning, the authors ask, and isn't that something with a very, very bad connotation. Not to mention the Nazis flat out, but, well, you get the point, don't you Judith McGrath of MTV? And you, Patricia Q. Stonesifer of the non-profit charity Martha's Table and the Gates Foundation, do you want your name linked to the attempted suppression of the written word?

The letter will end up in the New York Times, of course, and Amazon will be driven to respond, but what can they do beyond pretending not to be able to read the words that all those writers wrote? Their last rebuttal was laughed off the stage and there would be no point in trying the same thing again.

But then again, Amazon has the power to keep up the fight against Hachette no matter how many letters are sent to Jeff Bezos or the board of directors or the readers of a prominent newspaper.

They can feign illiteracy and continue to apply pressure to Hachette to accept what is offered and let Amazon boost its profit margin like it wants to. After all, a reader can always try another option to buy whatever book they like.

Is that why independent booksellers are doing better these days? Has anyone at Amazon wondered if the bad publicity could actually be hurting them a bit?

Ah go on. This is Amazon we're talking about.

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